As I braced myself for the inauguration of the Trump Era, the first book I read in 2017 was Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit. With each attempt by the GOP to strip Americans of our rights — including by passing HR 985 to protect civil rights violators* — I return to Solnit’s book to remember why I shouldn’t feel as helpless as I do.
Her book encourages me to look at our present moment with fresh eyes, searching for glimmers of hope. As she writes in Chapter 1:
There are times when it seems as though not only the future but the present is dark: few recognize what a radically transformed world we live in, one that has been transformed not only by such nightmares as global warming and global capital but by dreams of freedom, of justice, and transformed by things we could not have dreamed of. We adjust to changes without measuring them; we forget how much the culture has changed.
We can’t return to the past, not completely, and even Republican leadership in the House seems to understand that fact to some small degree. The Republicans’ American Health Care Act — also known as Trumpcare thanks to Donald Trump’s enthusiastic support for the plan — keeps a few features of Obamacare, a plan they claimed in their 2016 Platform was “invalid in its entirety” (PDF). For example, the current version of Trumpcare continues to bar health insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions. It also maintains Medicaid expansion for a limited time.
Of course, Trumpcare isn’t Obamacare (here’s a good analysis of the differences via The Atlantic). It’s a far worse deal for the American people that will ultimately cause millions of Americans to lose insurance coverage. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office published a report on March 13th (PDF) indicating that:
[In] 2018, 14 million people would be uninsured under [Trumpcare] than under [Obamacare]… [and] the increase in the number of uninsured people relative to the number under current law would rise to 21 million in 2020 and then to 24 million in 2020 [as a result of changes in Medicaid enrollment].
After this report, some Republican lawmakers have backed away from Trumpcare. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican congresswoman from Florida, tweeted:
The concept of Americans losing health coverage somehow seems “un-American” now, with 60% of Americans saying the government should be responsible for ensuring health care coverage. Government-supported access to affordable health insurance is a victory that has been “consolidated into [our] culture’s sense of how things should be,” to borrow a phrase from Solnit.
GOP leadership will do as much damage as they can to our access to affordable health care, but they can’t simply turn back the clock, not without fearing calls, protests, and ultimately retribution in the ballot box. That gives me hope.
*HR 985 passed the House on March 9, 2017 (220 yeas to 201 nays). Fourteen Republicans voted with all of the Democrats against the bill. It wasn’t enough to stop it. Now, the bill is in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Fair access to the justice system should not be a partisan issue. I hope our Senate Republicans will stand up for what’s right by defeating HR 985.